A huge Drexel Avenue streetscaping project could highlight Oak Creek as a 'city on the lake,' firm says

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A wave of light could flow down Drexel Avenue in Oak Creek along new walls, plantings and past freshly planted trees as part of a new streetscaping concept designed to highlight the city's proximity to Lake Michigan.

GRAEF, an engineering and consulting firm based in Milwaukee, presented a conceptual streetscape design to the Oak Creek plan commission Tuesday. The goal of the plan, which reaches from Ikea Way to Howell Avenue, is to “re-envision the current existing condition of Drexel Avenue,” said Craig Huebner, a planner and urban designer at GRAEF.

“Oak Creek is a city on the lake,” Huebner said.

The plan made use of this and tried to encapsulate elements of Oak Creek’s Lake Vista Park design into the streetscaping.

The main areas of focus for improvement are the intersections, medians, overpass, rail bridge and Oak Leaf Trail links. Huebner said GRAEF primarily was looking at the right-of-way but private elements could be incorporated. All elements were designed to emphasize movement.

“Drexel Avenue is all about movement,” Huebner said.

GRAEF’s streetscaping concept plans include a sidewalk on both sides of the street, new street trees, planting beds, green infrastructure, new street lighting, decorative paving, wayfinding signage, branding signage, landscape manipulation (such as berms) and art/sculptures. Huebner also highlighted the inclusion of a “meandering serpentine wall,” which could be used for signage as well.

Lighting is a “big wow factor,” according to Huebner. The concept included options like illuminated features along the corridor on decorative walls, uplighting on trees, possibly glowing reeds or cattails, rock formations with lighting, twinkling fireflies, lit towers, columns and banners.